Some of the most raw, intimate and iconic photographs of the Civil Rights Movement were taken by photojournalist Ernest C. Withers. He was present during the entire Emmett Till trial, when Martin Luther King, Jr. rode the first desegregated bus, and in the hotel room where Dr. King was assassinated. Many civil rights activists would cite Withers’ images as key to informing America of their plight and fight for equality.
But recent reports by Memphis publication The Commercial Appeal indicate that Withers, who passed away in 2007, was also informing the FBI — on their payroll.
The Commercial Appeal posted documents indicating that while Withers was photographing key members of the movement, he was also acting eyes and ears for a now inoperative wing of the FBI that heavily tracked civil rights activists.
Due to a clerical error revealing Withers’ informant number, reporters at The Commercial Appeal were able to connect Withers’ name to informant activities. Read more…